Ryan goal in 2OT gets Saint Ignatius past Fenwick

Tiernan Ryan’s goal in double overtime ended almost 75 minutes of a grueling hockey game on Tuesday, giving Saint Ignatius a 4-3 win over Fenwick in Game One of this year’s Kennedy Cup finals.

Afterwards, Fenwick coach Nick Fabbrini summed things up best.

“It’s a shame someone had to lose that game,” he said. “It was just a really great hockey game.”

Saint Ignatius matched a gutsy, determined effort by Fenwick, which saw the Friars take leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, only to see the Wolfpack score three game-tying goals to ultimately force overtime.

Fenwick was playing its heart out, and Saint Ignatius just kept meeting that challenge.

“We’ve been here before in double overtime,” Ryan said. “Some of the guys are new but we’ve also got a lot of returners here who knew what needed to happen, and we got it done. Guys definitely got ready to go in overtime and got it done. And we’ll have to be ready for them on Thursday because we know they’ll come twice as hard.”

This year’s Kennedy Cup finals features a team in Saint Ignatius that went 18-3-0 to finish atop the Chicago Catholic Hockey League regular season, against a Fenwick team that went 17-4-0 and placed second.

In the 60th season of CCHL hockey, the long history and tradition of the Kennedy Cup came through during a speech on Sunday, when Chicago Blackhawks great Chris Chelios spoke during his jersey retirement ceremony. Chelios touched on his days playing in the CCHL for Mount Carmel.

“Winning the state championship and the Kennedy Cup on the same day — that was one heck of a day,” Chelios said.

Prior to Game One of this year’s Kennedy Cup finals, Saint Ignatius coach Spencer Montgomery wanted his boys to appreciate what they’re chasing, as they pursue the program’s third-consecutive Cup title.

“Before the game we talked about the heritage of the Kennedy Cup, and Chelios talking about it, sixty years here in the city of Chicago, and why it matters,” Montgomery said.

Fenwick has won the Kennedy Cup title 10 times since 1964, the last one coming in 2007 to cap a run of five-consecutive Cup titles.

Tuesday's game was roughly seven minutes old when Fenwick’s James Papp fired from the point on the right side and Will Pabst got his stick on it to give the Friars a 1-0 lead. Saint Ignatius posted a tight, 8-7 lead in shots over Fenwick after one period.

“Saint Ignatius is a team that has given us trouble since I got here and for the last couple years,” Fabbrini said. “We haven’t had much success against them. So for us to come out with that kind of effort and push-back was great to see. We know they’re going to get their chances so we had to keep our poise and play, and I thought we did a great job of that.”

Saint Ignatius answered less than three minutes later when Michael Hollub fired from the left side and Max Meyer crashed net and buried the rebound. Ryan also assisted on the play.

Fenwick regained the lead with 11:33 remaining in the second period. Friars forward Dom Fosco took a puck across the middle in front and left it for Curtin, who buried it from the high slot. Mike Verni also assisted on the play.

Saint Ignatius again answered the bell. Ryan swooped in up the right side and fired a low shot that found its way into the net, tying the game 2-2 with 4:57 remaining before intermission. James Doherty and Francis Dunlay assisted on the goal.

“I loved our resiliency tonight,” Ryan said. “Even when we got scored on, everyone kept a positive face and kept up the positive energy.”

Twelve minutes passed in the third period when Fenwick found a goal to take its third lead of the game. The Friars’ Luke LaChance stole a puck deep in the Wolfpack’s zone and slid it over to Curtin, who had time to size things up in space before calmly depositing his second goal of the game from the high slot.

“He played great,” Fabbrini said of Curtin. “He’s one of our captains and he’s a guy that plays with his heart and soul, every game. He does a lot of different things for us and it was great to see him get rewarded.”

Fenwick was 2:33 away from victory when Montgomery called timeout and pulled goalie Brody Netzky. A mere seven seconds into the resumption of play, Steinlauf located a loose puck in front and buried it, tying the game and giving him his fourth goal in four games against Fenwick this season.

“I continue to sing Jackson Steinlauf’s praises,” Montgomery said. “He’s just difficult to play against.”

Time ticked away on regulation play, sending the game to overtime. Saint Ignatius had won 4-1, 6-2, and 4-1 against Fenwick in three regular-season games this year, but the Kennedy Cup finals are a different animal.

“I thought we came into the game a little bit too confident but give Fenwick credit,” Montgomery said. “They knew how important this game was and they scraped, and clawed, and attacked us. Their forecheck was intense and they played with urgency. But then things turned in the second and third periods, and in overtime I thought we had the better of play. Overall, it was a sense of urgency and compete that was needed to get it done.”

A suffocating effort kept Saint Ignatius in Fenwick’s zone for much of overtime play. Ryan and his teammates were resolved to find a game-winning goal but for almost 25 minutes over two overtimes, Fenwick goalie Spencer Lisek did everything humanly possible to keep the Wolfpack from scoring.

“Spencer made some really great saves when we needed him to,” Fabbrini said.

But a steady flow of water eventually erodes even the toughest rock. The Wolfpack kept coming in the second overtime until Hollub found his second assist and Ryan got his second goal to end the game, roughly six minutes into the second overtime period.

The play started at the boards on the left side.

“Hollub had it on the wall, I cut to the middle, and he passed it right under the defender’s triangle,” said Ryan, who fired from the high slot for his second goal of the day and his fourth in four games against Fenwick. Ryan finished the regular season atop the CCHL in scoring, with 22 goals and 22 assists.

“We know teams have to be aware when (Ryan) is on the ice,” Montgomery said. “And the big guy got it done. He’s the leader of the Catholic League for a reason.”

Ryan was quick to praise his teammates.

“Hollub and Max (Meyer) played amazing,” Ryan said. “And I’ve got to give it to the D core - (Charlie) Reif, Eghan (Ryan), Jimmy (Doherty), and Hutch (Dunlay) spent a lot of time on the ice in overtime. But honestly, I’ve got to shout out everyone. Everyone knew what they needed to do, the third-line grinders were getting it done, the second line was getting chances, and the fourth line was there to pick us up.”

HIs coach echoed much of Ryan’s assessment.

“Hutch Dunlay had a fantastic game and and our captain, Charlie Reif, is just a top defenseman,” Montgomery said. “We know (Fenwick’s) Dom Fosco is a threat, all the time, and (Reif) just shuts things down. And I thought Brody (Netzky) was really good in net.”

The Wolfpack now have a chance to win the series on their home ice. Game Two of the Kennedy Cup finals will be played Thursday at Fifth Third Arena in Chicago. The puck drops at 6:40.

Fenwick needs a road win to keep its season alive, which can likely only happen if Fabbrini gets the same kind of supreme effort he got from his boys on Tuesday.

“They clearly had the better of play in overtime, but we had some chances,” Fabbrini said. “It was just a really great hockey game and we came up just a little bit short.

“I thought our two freshmen - James Papp and Christian White - playing in the Kennedy Cup finals against a really good team. They held their own. (Defenseman) Joe Krzak was excellent tonight, (Luke) LaChance was really good tonight, and John Sena is always a guy we can count on every game. But there wasn’t really anybody we were unhappy with.

“I credit our guys for bouncing back after they scored that (third) tying goal. It would have been easy at that point to kind of pack it in, and chalk it up to it not being our night. But we made it through another twenty-plus minutes of hockey before they got that winning goal. We couldn’t be more proud of them.”